Thursday, 23 July 2009

Margaret Atwood


You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window,
there is birdsong,
you can't get out of bed.

It's something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast--some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open--you do not dare to eat.

What prevents you? The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its destiny
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget that and let's get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one's useless.
It's never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you've tried.)

Now here's a good one:
You're lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

Margaret Atwood 1939 -


  1. One of my favourite authors . . . her work is always intelligent, informed and astute.

  2. Hmmmm....was hard to haul my carcass oot the pit with nae work the day. That wee poem's right cheered me up, though.

  3. It's funny how differently people interpret things cos I find the poem, not really depressing, but heavy and ambiguous.

    My bed can be both a sanctuary and a prison and there's a lot of overlap where it feels like both at the same time. And can be both. Or something like that.

    The last stanza (is that the word?) is very thought provoking. I answered 'myself.'

    Just as a side note: As Ms Atwood ages I think that she looks more and more like Pierre Trudeau. I'm not suggesting anything, just saying.